Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Chief Derek Nepinak. (FILE PHOTO)
RM of ELTON — The location of a casino in Westman will be determined based on business factors, not political ones, Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs Grand Chief Derek Nepinak said Tuesday.
"I have always stood by the principle that you make good decisions when they are based on solid business principles, at least as far as casinos go, and I’ll stand by that," Nepinak said just outside of a compound of tents and teepees erected for the National Treaties 1-11 gathering hosted by the Keeseekoowenin First Nation.
"So if it comes down to whether to build a casino in one location or another, I’ll look at the business case and make the decision on that basis. I think every chief wants to see the best potential and the highest-yielding casino built because the profits from that will provide for their communities. If there is a big cheque on the table for their communities, they shouldn’t take less than that."
That didn’t mean that Nepinak or the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs are any closer to determining whether to build the casino at the Spirit Sands site on Swan Lake First Nation land south of Carberry or whether to shift the focus to a Brandon-based casino.
But the process now in play clearly indicates that AMC has influence on the decision, Nepinak said.
"It’s well known now that the TCIG-Brandon partnership is talked about, but the AMC holds the cards in terms of where casinos go," Nepinak said.
"In light of that, we have established processes and discussions based on making sound business decisions and not necessarily political ones all the time."
Brandon Mayor Shari Decter Hirst, who earlier in the day had offered greetings to the gathering from the city, said casino matters came up in discussion.
"(Former Assembly of First Nations Grand Chief) Ovide Mercredi even mentioned it when he was talking about treaty rights, because that land (where the gathering is taking place) was bought by Keeseekoowenin, Rolling River and Waywayseecappo group back prior to the Spirit Sands announcement in anticipation of a casino there." Decter Hirst said.
"It would have been in the minds of the Manitoba delegates."
With a recent funding rollback of AMC’s core funding to $500,000 from $2.6 million, there is a desire to come to a decision sooner rather than later, Nepinak said.
"I think you could see something happen within the next six months," Nepinak said.
"The funding cuts …resulted in a need for us to accelerate some of our economic development plans and as such we certainly won’t be sitting around waiting for another two years to make something happen."
Decter Hirst said that the economic benefits to a casino in Brandon are there and enhance the business case to building the gaming centre in the Wheat City.
"When you are looking at other sources of revenue being pulled back, you get aggressive about diversifying your funding base," Decter Hirst said.
"Gaming has traditionally been very profitable for the aboriginal community."
Nepinak said there was a discussion with other chiefs later Tuesday evening in Brandon regarding the funding cutbacks to the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs and how they would deal with the impact of those cuts.
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition September 12, 2012